I was "Pastor of For the Day", as I was called yesterday, at the Community Church of Wilmette. In other words I was pulpit supply and so preached and gave the blessing at the end of the service. I was preaching in Tripps Absence. I enjoyed the opportunity to preach, and it was the first time preaching at a Baptist church. And the first time in a long time that I have preached anywhere but Reconciler. Bellow is the Sermon I preached. I believe it will also eventualy be posted on Wilmette Community Church's web page.
It is a Baptist church so only one text was read, the one I was preaching from, John 6:51-58
For the Life of the World-
In the Gospel passage this morning and the entire passage of John 6 Jesus speaks about what is central even essential for life. Jesus is telling us about life about the source of life. If you want life, true vibrant endless life, you need this above all else!
Before I continue I want to give you a sense of where I am speaking from and thus what influences my reading of the text before us this morning:
I am an Evangelical Covenant Minister and have been a Covenanter (that is how we refer to ourselves) my entire life. My family has been part of the denomination since its founding a hundred and twenty years ago. Back then “evangelical” wasn’t in our name. Now many people get the wrong idea by the word “evangelical” in our name: it does not mean “fundamentalist” or even necessarily conservative- it simply has the European meaning i.e. Synonymous with protestant. Given the confusion the term evangelical can have I have taken to describe myself as a Lutheran Pietist, not because it is clearer but because most people don’t assume they know what a Lutheran Pietist is, unlike most assuming they know what an “evangelical is?
In brief a Lutheran Pietist is one who not only believes that one should have faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ, but that this faith and relationship has very real social and political consequences. (Story of living in Dinuba age 10-12) In other words faith is holistic and not partial or compartmentalized into the purely private morality and public morality, nor does faith only care to feed the poor and not attempt to change the circumstances in which all of us live. In other words knowing God in and through Jesus Christ should lead to a transformed and transfigured life that also transforms and transfigures the world in which we live. Or to begin to use the language of our Gospel passage Eternal Life already begins to invade and transfigure our present life marred by death.
Jesus through talking about bread and eating is telling us in chapter six of John what, or rather who is the source of our life, and the life of the world: Jesus is the source the center is in fact life itself! What is offered us here in Jesus Christ is Eternal Life.
Eternal Life in John should not be read as “pie in the sky when you die”. Eternal life is not something we simply sit around and wait for; rather it is something offered to us in Jesus Christ now and forever. Eternal life is a quality of life that does not end and is fully life uncorrupted by death. And as such one can be alive but be without life, and one can die and yet live.
So, what is this life, if it is not simply our survival after death and if it is quality of life? In some sense what is offered to us is life that is not marred by death. But to understand eternal life in this way we must see death as more than simply the fact that we die. Death in biblical terms is a reality that is connected with the reality of sin in the world. Meaning it is connected with all that is disordered and set against the good and what God intends for the world, for us as individuals and the human community. In this sense where we see injustice, poverty, and oppression we are seeing the effects of death. Eternal life then is the state of more than being physically alive but living in the fullness of what God intended before Sin and Death entered the world, creating the reality we know, with poverty, war, famine, broken relationships, and divided and disintegrated communities. There is no room for compartmentalizing, no dividing off politics from morality or claiming that personal morality is what it is all about or merely ensuring economic justice, or equality. God in Jesus Christ comes to us and not only offers us a way out but is the life that is true and whole.
What I want to encourage this morning is the understanding that working for justice, or equality against oppression and on the behalf of the poor, is ultimately about resisting a world dominated by Sin and Death. That is injustice is the result of sin both corporate and private, and that what oppression and poverty show is the degree to which we as humans are dominated by Death. This is what I began to see as a child and struggle with as I grew into adulthood. However, in the end politicians and governments alone cannot bring an end to injustice, or racism or poverty, for our politicians and governments and states are bent on survival and self-interest, as are most corporations. Living for survival and self-interest is to live in fear of death, and thus dominated by Death. We all live in fear of death whether we are poor middle class or wealthy when we all desperately attempt to grasp what drops of life we can from what we have and can acquire for ourselves. If this is how we live than we live a life dominated by death, and we show ourselves to be without Eternal Life.
“...unless you eat… you have no life in you.”
Jesus comes and says there is way not to simply live simply trying to squeeze a few drops of life out of the world before we die, if we take Jesus in into ourselves allowing ourselves to be made one with Christ.
What the Gospel of John tells us in John chapter six is this: you want true life, you want the peace beyond peace you want a just and whole world, you must first know the source of life and justice. What life you have comes from Jesus Christ, God come to earth in human form, the Son of God, the Logos the second person of the Holy Trinity. If Jesus Christ is not found in you, if you do not partake of him and joined in his Body, there is at best the fleeting possibility of finding justice, peace, and freedom from oppression for without Jesus Christ there is no life, and what life there is in the world has its source in God the Son, Jesus Christ. If you see life in your friends and neighbors, if you see hope for justice and freedom, it is because of Jesus Christ the life of the world. Wherever we see life, hope, justice, there is Jesus Christ. There is no way to have life and not have Christ, to have justice and not also serve the one who is the justice of God. Jesus Christ is the life of the world, it is why elsewhere Jesus says if you have given water food, or shelter to the least of these you have done it for Christ. God in Christ is already identifying with the least of these, already at work in the world transforming and transfiguring it. Only in Christ is the world made whole, only in him does our food truly sustain us, only in him will we find the life that is without death. Because of Christ though we may die we know we will live, for we have tasted the bread of Life and the Life of the world lives in us. Because of Jesus Christ we have seen God work beyond our ability to bring life and love and justice into the world. Have you not seen your resources inexplicably multiplied, have you not seen how a little often goes a long way, this is so because of Jesus Christ.
Behold Jesus Christ, The Life of the world, have we eaten of him and drank of him, knowing true satisfaction and true justice. Without Jesus we may build a life, but find we have no means to live it, we may work for justice but find our life expended in the effort, we may serve the poor, to find ourselves impoverished. If, However, we have joined ourselves with Christ, and eaten of the true bread and true drink, we will have life in us and have life to bring to those we meet and the world in which we live. Is Jesus your life? Then all else will be there. As Tripp said last week, this life that is offered is without scarcity, it is the expanding generosity of God offered to us in Jesus Christ, the Life of the world. To know Jesus is to know justice and to live life freed from Death. If we are one with Christ if he is in us and we are in his Body, there is no more compartments all is transfigured by the life of God’s justice generosity and love, may we know this life and be renewed in our lives. May we see our world transfigured by the one who is the Life of the World.